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Chianti Risotto

Chianti Risotto with DaVinci Chianti

Chianti Risotto tastes like one giant food hug.

Fall of 2013, I was in a whirlwind of excitement and slowly coming down off my travel and culinary cloud after being in Italy for two weeks.  I think in all that excitement I failed to post this lovely dish.

I originally created this gorgeous Chianti Risotto for DaVinci Wine . I was one of four very lucky bloggers to join the DaVinci Wine team in Vinci, Italy to learn all about Chianti wine-making. It. Was. Glorious.

Naturally, I had to pair these two ingredients together, making one very cozy and gorgeous looking dish.

This Chianti Risotto is one of those special recipes I reserve for a weekend when everyone is home and gathered in the kitchen.  We take turns stirring the risotto, chatting, sipping wine, nibbling on bruschetta and savoring the precious moments together.  You can certainly make this on a weeknight (and I do that as well) but it’s such an indulgent and rich dish I love to sit and relish the dish over a long weekend evening.

Risotto is a staple in most Italian kitchens and it’s served in many forms. Which is truly the beauty of risotto.  It travels through seasons adapting to a multitude of ingredients, never wearing out its welcome on the dinner table.

I adore the subtle fruitiness of the DaVinci Chianti and I thought it would make a lovely addition to risotto. Top with crispy fried sage, fresh grated parmesan or shaved pecorino and this is comfort food at its most delicious.  For a heartier version of this deeply colored risotto, I topped it with a farm fresh fried egg.

Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,



Chianti Risotto

Serving Size: 2-3 as an entree, 4 as a side dish


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium shallot, finely diced (about 2-3 tablespoons)
  • 1 cup Arborio or Carnaroli rice
  • 1 cup DaVinci Chianti
  • 4 -5 cups beef broth, warmed
  • Knob of unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6-8 large sage leaves
  • Shaved pecorino
  • Optional: top each serving with a fried egg


  • In a large pot over medium high heat add the olive oil. When the oil is hot but not smoking add the shallots and sauté for just a minute or two and then add the rice. Stir the rice for about 2 minutes and then add the cup of DaVinci Chianti and stir until the wine is absorbed.
  • Turn the heat down to medium or medium low and stir in 1 cup of the warm beef broth. Simmer until the broth is absorbed, stirring frequently. Repeat this process with about ½ cup of broth at a time and continue to cook until the rice is almost tender.
  • Be sure to allow each addition of broth to be absorbed before adding the next. This takes about 20 minutes. When the rice is done, add additional broth if you feel the risotto is too thick. I like a thinner risotto.
  • Stir in the parmesan cheese and a knob of butter and season to taste with salt and pepper. Let the risotto rest while you prepare the sage leaves and/or fried eggs.
  • In a small sauté pan heat some olive oil and when the oil is very hot add the sage leaves, turning them in the oil as they brown. Once crispy, take the pan off the heat and set the fried sage on a paper towel lined plate.
  • Place the risotto in individual serving bowls and garnish with a fried sage leave, shaved pecorino, and if you wish, a fried egg.
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    Karista's Kitchen Salad Seafood

    Seared Ahi Tuna Tacos with DaVinci Chianti

    Seared Ahi Tuna Tacos with Radish and Cucmber Salad and DaVinci Chianti

    By choosing to click and read this blog post, you confirm you are of legal drinking age in the country where this site is accessed.

    “DaVinci wine is created in a magical place.  Tuscany; a treat for the eyes as well as the palate.  The air smells of sweet, sun ripened grapes and fresh herbs –  all muddled with the earthy scent of mineral rich soil”.

    These were the first words I wrote the day I arrived at the Casale Leonardo da Vinci Villa in Vinci, Italy last fall.

    Never have I been so enamored with a landscape; and enchanted by the people who inhabit it.

    Seared Ahi Tuna Tacos with Radish and Cucumber Salad and DaVinci Chianti

    On a warm summer day last August, 2013, my daughter and I had loaded the last of our belongings into the car.  I walked back down the little gravel path and stood in the entry doorway, giving my home once last glance – then closing and locking it one last time.  We were moving to Oregon.  Bittersweet.  Trying to hold back the tears as we looked back at the house we had called home for 12 years.  My daughter, being a brave soul, reassured her Mom that it would be ok. “We aren’t moving that far away” she said.  I smiled.

    Then I said, “this is the beginning of a new adventure”.

    And it was.

    Just as we crossed the Washington Oregon border my phone rang.  Thankfully, my teenage daughter was driving so I answered the call.   A lovely lady announced to me that I had been selected the 2013 Culinary Arts DaVinci Wine Storyteller.  I remember asking the lovely lady to repeat what she had said.  The only words that would escape my lips was “really?” “I never win anything!” And then of course, thanking her profusely for delivering the most fantastic news.

    This time I really was in tears.  So excited, so honored to have been selected to represent the culinary arts for DaVinci Wine Storyteller Experience 2013.

    DaVinci Chianti with Radish Cucumber Salad 4

    Radish Cucumber Greens with Spicy Crema and DaVinci Chianti

    It was a grand adventure.  Looking back and reading my second journal entry I recall the swells of emotion. “The beauty of Tuscany mirrors the beauty of its people and its food”. “A culture rich with history and laced with passion. A passion that transcends all boundaries and flows effortlessly onto the family table”.

    The 2014 Storyteller Experience is under way and DaVinci Wine is once again looking for the best storytellers in culinary arts, photography, writing, fine arts and more.  Bloggers and creative storytellers of all kinds can now apply.   Grab a pen, warm up the typing fingers, “Like” the DaVinci Facebook page and go fill out the application.  The deadline is May 31, 2014.   Twelve finalists will be chosen and then voted on by DaVinci Wine Facebook fans to ultimately select the final four winners.

    I’m excited just thinking about it! If you’d like to apply, click HERE.  Be sure to check out the winners from years past by clicking HERE!

    The lovely folks from DaVinci Wine, who I adore, have asked me to share my Storyteller Experience and how I now create a little “Chianti at Home”.  Over the next few months, I will be pairing the DaVinci Chianti, Chianti Reserva and Pinot Grigio with recipes I serve at my family table.  Lush, enticing and mouthwatering recipes that pair perfectly with DaVinci Chianti here at Home.

    Chianti at Home with Seared Ahi Tuna Tacos and DaVinci Chianti

    The first of the “Chianti at Home” recipes is this flavorful and festive Seared Ahi Tuna Tacos.  Simply prepared and laced with fresh and spicy flavors of the season.  Although this is  technically a “seafood” taco, the delicate but firm and meaty texture of the Ahi tuna pairs beautifully with the DaVinci Chianti.

    The subtle fruit notes and smooth texture of the Chianti compliments the fresh and spicy flavors of the radish and cucumber greens and crema, as well as the firm and meaty texture of the seared Ahi tuna.  If you’re looking for a complimentary white wine to pair with the tacos, the DaVinci Wine Pinot Grigio also beautifully compliments this lovely dish..  Flavors that balance, entice the palate and compliment DaVinci Wines.

    Celebrate the Spring and Summer seasons by bringing a little Chianti to your Home!

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,


    *This is a sponsored post by the lovely folks at DaVinci Wine


    Seared Ahi Tuna Tacos with Radish Cucumber Greens and Spicy Crema

    Serves 4 (can easily be doubled for guests)


    1 ½ lbs Ahi tuna fillets, sushi grade (remove the tuna from the frig 15 minutes prior to cooking. This will allow the skillet to stay hot and quickly sear the tuna)

    Salt and Fresh Cracked Black Pepper

    ½ teaspoon dried oregano

    ½ teaspoon ground cumin

    ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika

    2 tablespoons ghee/clarified butter (or another high heat oil)

    For the Greens and Spicy Crema

    2 medium radishes, thinly sliced

    1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced

    2 cups (or more if you’d like an extra side salad) mixed seasonal greens

    ½ crumbled Cotija cheese

    ¼ cup cilantro leaves (optional)

    ½ cup good quality mayonnaise

    2 tablespoons lime juice

    1 teaspoon sugar or any other natural alternative (not honey however, as honey is more of a flavoring rather than a sweetener)

    Dash of chipotle powder or Sriracha (both are delicious, however the chipotle powder gives a smoky flavor)

    2 limes, quartered

    Corn tortillas


    In a small bowl mix together the dried oregano, ground cumin and paprika.  Season the tuna with salt and pepper and then rub the herb/spice mixture on both sides of the tuna fillets.

    Next, heat a large heavy bottom skillet over medium high heat.  (A cast iron skillet works well for this recipe)  Add a few tablespoons of ghee (clarified butter) or any other high heat oil. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, place one tuna fillet in the skillet and let it brown.  About two minutes on each side.  You want both sides golden brown with a pink center.

    Remove the tuna fillet and set it on a cutting board.  Repeat the process with the remaining tuna fillets.

    Once the tuna is done, slice against the grain so the tuna doesn’t fall apart.  Set aside and prepare the greens.

    Toss together the radishes, cucumber, mixed greens and cilantro leaves.  Season with a little salt and pepper and squeeze of lime juice.

    Whisk together the mayonnaise, lime juice, sugar and chipotle powder or Sriracha.

    Warm the tortillas in a steamer or wrap them in foil and warm them in the oven making sure they don’t dry out.  If you have a microwave, corn tortillas warm nicely in about 10 seconds in a microwave.

    To assemble:

    Place the radish and cucumber greens in the bottom of a tortilla and then top with a slice or two of Ahi tuna.  Drizzle with the spicy crema and garnish with cotija cheese.  Repeat the process and place the tacos on a large platter with the quartered limes to serve.

    Serve with your favorite homemade salsa, guacamole, tortilla chips – and DaVinci Chianti.









    Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Sweets vegetarian

    Lavender Panna Cotta with Dark Chocolate Ganache

    Lavender Panna Cotta with Dark Chocolate Ganache

    By choosing to click and read this blog post, you confirm you are of legal drinking age in the country where this site is accessed.

    I’m still talking about Tuscany – the food, photographs, memories.  All in constant re-play.  And although I visited this enchanting location last fall, Tuscany will forever remain in my heart.

    DaVinci wine is created in a magical place. Tuscany is a treat for the eyes as well as the palate. The air smells of sweet, sun ripened grapes and fresh herbs, muddled with the earthy scent of mineral rich soil.

    The beauty of the Tuscan region mirrors the beauty of its people and its food.  A culture rich with history and laced with passion – a passion that transcends all boundaries and flows effortlessly onto the family table.

    lavender panna cotta with dark chocolate ganache from Karista's Kitchen

    Among all the plates of gloriously delicious food, It seems only fitting to include a dessert laced with an herb that grows freely in Tuscany.  Lavender bushes dot the landscape and scent the air with its sweet and earthy fragrance.

    It happens to be one of my favorite herbs to incorporate into a sweet.  So, a lavender laced panna cotta with dark chocolate ganache felt the perfect dessert to end this storyteller’s meal.  And… a perfect beginning to spring.

    You can find this lovely dessert on the DaVinci Wine Facebook pageClick here.  Also check out the other three multi-talented Storytellers: Jim O’Donnell, Kristina Laurendi Havens and Leela Cyd.

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love!


    Lavender Panna Cotta with Dark Chocolate Ganache


    Makes 8 – 10 servings

    2 cups whole milk

    2 cups heavy cream

    2 teaspoons crushed dried culinary lavender buds (found in the spice area of your market)

    ½ cup plus two tablespoons sugar

    4 teaspoons powdered gelatin

    6 tablespoons cold water

    For the Ganache

    8 ounces of your favorite dark chocolate

    1 cup heavy cream

    Heat the chocolate and heavy cream in a double boiler.  Whisk until thoroughly combined.  Let cool and then ladle over the panna cotta.


    Heat the milk, heavy cream, sugar and crushed dried lavender buds in a sauce pan.  Stirring, let the milk heat and sugar dissolve.  However, don’t bring it to a boil or it could scald.

    Let the milk and cream mixture sit for about 30 minutes to allow the lavender to infuse the milk.

    Place the 6 tablespoons of cold water in the bottom of a large bowl.  Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let it stand for about 5 minutes.

    Strain the warm milk mixture to remove the lavender.  Then pour the milk mixture over the gelatin and whisk until the gelatin is dissolved.

    Ladle the panna cotta into small serving dishes and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but will be firmer if  refrigerated longer.

    Before serving prepare the dark chocolate ganache and top each panna cotta with the warm chocolate.

    Garnish with fresh mint leaves or candied cherries.




    Beef Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Pasta

    Tuscan Lasagna al Forno

    Tuscan style lasagna with bechamel and sugo

    Tuscan Lasagna al Forno

    Due to legalities you have to promise you’re 21 or older before proceeding to read this post.  Yes, we are talking wine and food.  But it’s the wine that’s the tricky part.  Thanks!


    Nothing could have prepared me for the magic and beauty of Tuscany.  Although I’ve read about Tuscany for years, viewed what feels like a million photographs and watched several films, it didn’t even begin to compare to the moment I stepped onto the gloriously beautiful landscape.

    Now, never a day goes by that Tuscany doesn’t come to mind. The lovely memories of decadent food and wine, beautiful landscape, warm and hospitable residents and our DaVinci Wine team… seem to linger and cause my heart to long as if I’ve lost a true love.

    Glorious Tuscan Cuisine and Franco the Sous Chef

    Glorious Tuscan Cuisine and Franco the Sous Chef

    Sounds dramatic I know.  But as my sister said to me after her trip to London – I feel forever changed.  Traveling abroad and experiencing life in a new land is an enlightening feeling.  Probably because I’ve always been so intrigued by people and their food.  Our own food culture here in the states is beautifully diverse as well and possibly some of the most intriguing.  But to experience Tuscany was indeed a highlight that makes me feel forever changed.

    My trip was full of little surprises – like when Ranger Craig and I were in search of breakfast.  Eggs?  I think not. A pastry and espresso is found on every corner.  Ask for an egg and you just might be tossed out of the pastry shop.  Honestly , I didn’t mind.  Who wouldn’t mind having a gorgeous pastry and espresso for breakfast.  Nothing terribly sweet, just a little something to start the day.    Or when my fellow Storyteller, Jim O’Donnell asked for an Americano at a little establishment just outside Monteriggioni. He promptly received a “no”; with an espresso instead. A hilarious moment that you can read all about it here.

    DaVinci Wine Storyteller Experience

    Harvesting the Sangiovese grapes and Photographer Leela Cyd catching the action.

    While dining at a restaurant in Florence, I was surprised by the lasagna I ordered.  Not at all the version we prepare here in the states.  Although our Italian American version is divine, this thing of beauty included layers of lush and buttery lasagna pasta sheets with rich béchamel, parmesan, pecorino and rich Bolognese sauce, or as they call it here, sugo.

    The absence of ricotta and mozzarella was startling. But I must say it wasn’t missed.  So when I arrived home, I simply had to re-create this lovely dish I so vividly remember.

    Because this Tuscan Lasagna al Forno was created for my friends at DaVinci Wine, you can find it on the DaVinci Wine Facebook page.   To check out the websites of our other two Storytellers, just click on their names… Kristina Laurendi Havens and Leela Cyd.

    I wish you all Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love!


    Tuscan Lasagna al Forno


    For the Sugo:

    ¾ – 1 lb ground beef or ground Italian sausage

    1 red onion, diced

    1 carrot, small diced

    1 rib of celery, small diced

    1-2 cloves garlic, minced

    ½ cup DaVinci Chianti

    2-3 cups tomato sauce

    Pinch dried oregano

    Pinch of allspice or pumpkin pie spice (I know  this seems unusual but a kind Trattoria Chef told me this ingredient is always included in his Sugo for Lasagna al Forno)

    Salt and pepper to taste


    In a heavy bottom skillet, heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil over medium high heat and sauté the onion, carrot and celery until nicely golden brown, almost caramelized. Add the ground meat and garlic to the soffrito (diced veggies) and cook until done, breaking up any big pieces.  The meat should be small and somewhat minced.

    Take the skillet off the heat and stir in the wine, scraping up the bits of good stuff (fond) on the bottom of the pan.

    Stir in the tomato sauce, oregano and allspice or pumpkin pie spice and a pinch or two of salt and pepper.  Put the skillet back on the heat and bring to a low simmer.  Let the sauce simmer while you prepare the béchamel.

    Bechamel or White Ragu:


    6 tablespoons unsalted butter

    6 tablespoons flour

    3 cups warm whole milk

    Pinch of nutmeg

    Salt and pepper to taste


    In a large sauce pan melt the butter over medium heat.  When the butter is melted whisk in the flour.  Then slowly whisk in the warm milk.

    Continue whisking until your milk comes to a simmer and begins to thicken.  Turn the heat down so you don’t burn the sauce and continue whisking until the sauce thickens.

    Stir in the pinch of fresh grated nutmeg and season to taste with salt and pepper.

    You will want this béchamel (white ragu) thicker than a béchamel that you might toss with pasta.  So if it feels heavy or thick that’s ok.  It’ll be perfect for the lasagna.

    For the Lasagna:


    Fresh lasagna sheets, cooked – enough to fill a lasagna baking dish or a 9×13 baking dish.  I love a deep baking dish for this lasagna.

    3-4 cups Sugo

    3-4 cups Béchamel

    ½ cup grated parmesan

    ½ cup shaved pecorino Toscana

    Chopped fresh Italian parsley for garnish


    Pre-heat the oven to 350F.

    Ladle a little Sugo in the bottom of the baking dish and line with pasta sheets.  Ladle the pasta sheets with béchamel, sprinkle of parmesan and pecorino. Continue alternating the béchamel and Sugo until you’ve created 5-6 layers or used all your pasta sheets.  Be sure to save a cup of Sugo for the top of the lasagna.

    Sprinkle the lasagna with the remaining cheese, cover with foil and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until the sides are bubbly.

    Raise the heat to 400F.  Remove the foil and cook the lasagna until the top is toasty and cheese is golden brown, another 10 minutes or so.  Sometimes I put it under the broiler for extra color.

    Let the lasagna rest for about 10 minutes before slicing.  This will allow the béchamel and cheese to firm for slicing.

    Serve with a side of extra Vinci sauce and grated parmesan if desired.



    Breakfast Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly vegetarian

    Frittata Florentine

    Frittata prepared with fresh spinach and pomodor sauce

    Frittata Florentine

    ~By choosing to click and read this blog post, you confirm you are of legal drinking age in the country where this site is accessed~

    Every morning in Vinci, Italy  I was greeted with lush beauty for the eyes, tranquility for the soul and exquisite food for the taste buds.   Food lovingly prepared by our Chef Ana.

    In the sweet quiet of the early morning,  I would hear Chef Ana arrive, softly making her way through the villa to the well stocked kitchen – to begin preparing our morning meal.

    My eyes would snap open and I’d lounge in my cozy bed unable to sleep; thinking about all the deliciousness I’d find on the breakfast table.

    After meandering around my 14th century room with modern amenities, peeking out the windows, snapping pictures of my breathtaking views, splattering my enthusiasm all over social media, I eventually found my way downstairs.  Following the heavenly scents to a delicious assortment of eggs prepared poached or over easy, frittatas laced with fresh baby zucchini and decadent pomodoro, pastry, cured meats and cheese.  And of course, perfectly brewed fresh coffee served with milk Chef Ana had taken the time to warm.

    Casale Leonardo da Vinci in Vinci Italy

    Chef Ana and Franco/Morning at the Villa

    This lovely Frittata Florentine is an adaption of the delicious frittatas Chef Ana served each morning.  And although this is quite an enticing version, nothing can compare to a frittata Chef Ana creates.

    Find this recipe as well as my other seven recipes inspired by this glorious adventure to Tuscany on the DaVinci Wine Facebook Page. You will be able to save and print a copy from their page.  Buon Appetito!

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,


    Frittata Florentine

    Serves 4-6


    6-8 large eggs (for a 10-12 inch non-stick oven proof skillet)

    1 tablespoon water

    Extra Virgin Olive Oil

    Two or three handfuls of fresh baby spinach or chopped spinach from your garden

    2-3 tablespoon tomato sauce (I used my leftover Vinci sauce)

    ½ cup shredded or thinly shaved Pecorino

    Pinch or two of dried Oregano, crushed with fingers

    Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

    1 teaspoon salt

    ½ teaspoon black pepper

    Optional add ins: torn prosciutto, pancetta or coppa, diced bacon and fresh basil leaves


    Pre-heat the oven to 375F.

    Whisk together the eggs and water.  Heat a tablespoon or two of extra virgin olive oil in the bottom of the skillet over medium heat.

    When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the eggs and sprinkle with the salt, pepper, crushed oregano and crushed red pepper.  Allow the eggs to slightly set.

    Once you see a crust forming on the bottom of the eggs, top the eggs with as much baby spinach as you like.  Then dot with tomato sauce and top with the cheese.

    Place the skillet in the pre-heated oven and let it finish cooking for another 5-10 minutes or until the eggs are just set and cooked through.  I like my eggs “wet” so I tend to pull the skillet out a little before the full 10 minutes.

    Let the frittata cool slightly then slide it onto a platter, slice and serve.






    Appetizers Karista's Kitchen vegetarian

    Roasted Grape Crostini

    Roasted Grape Crostini

    Roasted Grape Crostini

    (Just one little question, I’m required by law to ask… By clicking on this link,  you affirm that you are of legal drinking age in the country where the site is being accessed.)

    DaVinci wine is created in a magical place. Tuscany is a treat for the eyes as well as the palate. The air smells of sweet sun ripened grapes and fresh herbs, muddled with the earthy scent of mineral rich soil.

    The beauty of the Tuscan region mirrors the beauty of its people and its food.  A culture rich with history and laced with passion. A passion that transcends all boundaries and flows effortlessly onto the family table.


    Cantine Leonardo da Vinci

    A Villa with a View


    Traveling to Tuscany this Autumn with DaVinci wine, I experienced the lovely Tuscan people who so graciously shared their love of food, wine, history and culture.

    I couldn’t write fast enough.  Or snap enough pictures to capture the awe inspiring landscape on which my eyes were feasting.  I found myself quietly content, and somewhat absorbed, at my place at each table; savoring the flavor of every bite of mouthwatering food.

    Fresh pastas that melted on the tongue like butter, complimented by fresh, local porcini mushrooms tasting earthy and woody and dreamy.  Rich slow cooked ragu’s of wild boar and rosemary, salt cured salumi and fresh ricotta on Crostini, Bistecca alla Fiorentina, the traditional grilled Florentine Porterhouse steak that never wore out its welcome on my plate.  All the flavors so beautifully balanced, clean and never overpowering.

    As I savored and contemplated each bite of moan inducing food, I sipped the most delicious DaVinci Chianti’s.  Wine rich and bold on the palate, yet subtle like soft velvet while I sipped.  And sip I did.  Yes, lots of sipping.

    The DaVinci Chianti has long been a favorite of mine, however, among the lovely list of DaVinci wines, I have a new love.  The DaVinci Brunello. Our captivating and gracious DaVinci Brand Ambassador, Giacomo Alari, calls the Brunello “a very polite wine.  Once the Brunello is on your palate it is master of your palate. Not in power, but in elegance like cashmere.  A great wine doesn’t have to be powerful to be exquisite.”

    I heard once that every bottle of wine has a story to tell.  That couldn’t be more true for the DaVinci Chianti.

    To celebrate this glorious week in Tuscany I’ve created eight lovely little dishes.  They will be unveiled throughout the next few months, beginning with the Roasted Grape Crostini.  Check out the DaVinci Wine Facebook page to download a copy of the recipes.

    Recipes inspired by a few enchanting people, stunning landscape and scrumptious moments.  Bewitching my heart as well as my palate.

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love!

    Buon Appetito,



    Karista's Kitchen Sauces, Salsas and More Seafood Shrimp vegetarian

    Spicy Pomodoro with Creamy Polenta

    spicy tomato sauce with pan seared shrimp over polenta

    Spicy Pomodoro with Pan Seared Gulf Shrimp over Creamy Polenta

    The Autumn fog has settled onto the valley landscape and created a halo of diffused light.  Intensifying the seasons colors and keeping just a little chill in the air.

    This is the time of year I pull out the heavier throw blankets and roam the house in search of the warmer socks and slippers.  Most of them in various unmarked boxes since our move.

    Even the dinner meals become spicier. Rich and flavorful tomato sauces lace the seasons dishes and create a welcome evening reprieve from the shorter and cooler days.

    spicy tomato sauce with pan seared shrimp over polenta

    Italian Inspired Spicy Pomodoro over Creamy Polenta

    This beautiful dish was inspired not only by the season but by my recent visit to Italy.  While pouring through delicious pictures of the loveliest people, mouth-watering food and soul soothing landscape, I knew I needed a spicy pomodoro over creamy polenta this week; and shrimp would make a lovely addition.

    If shrimp isn’t on your list of shellfish love, try serving this rich and satisfying sauce with roasted Autumn veggies.  It pairs well with roasted eggplant and zucchini as well as sautéed seasonal mushrooms.

    Top with plenty of pecorino Toscana and you just might think you were dining in Italy.

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,


    Spicy Pomodoro with Creamy Polenta

    Serves 4


    ¼ cup good quality extra virgin olive oil (I use California Olive Ranch Arbosana)

    ½ cup finely chopped onion

    2-3 garlic cloves, finely minced

    Pinch or two of red pepper flakes  (I usually add about 1/4 teaspoon) (also a smoked chipotle powder is a fun substitution)

    1  28 ounce can crushed tomatoes

    1 – 2 teaspoons tomato paste

    1 teaspoon sugar (if needed)

    1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or ½ teaspoon dried basil

    Salt and pepper to taste


    In a sauce pan over medium heat add the olive oil.  When the oil is hot add the onions to the pan and sauté until golden.

    Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté one minute longer.

    Take the pan off the heat (or you’ll be splattered with crushed tomatoes) and stir in the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and basil.  Put the pan back on the heat and then bring the sauce to a very slow simmer.  Let it cook for about 15-30 minutes.  The longer the sauce cooks the richer the flavor.

    Stir in the sugar if the sauce is too “bright”.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Drizzle with a little olive oil before serving.

    Add pan seared or grilled shrimp directly to the sauce and let the shrimp swim in the sauce for a few minutes to absorb those delicious flavors and then serve over creamy polenta (recipe below).  Garnish with plenty of pecorino Toscana or parmesan.

    Vegetarian:  Add roasted eggplant, red onions, zucchini, potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash and anything else you think would be delicious.  Garnish with lots of cheese!

    Creamy Polenta

    3 cups whole or 2% milk

    2/3 cup quick cooking polenta

    ¼ cup grated Pecorino Toscana or Parmesan

    Salt and pepper to taste

    Heat the milk in a 4-quart saucepan, stirring as you bring it to a boil. While stirring, add the polenta. Reduce the heat to low and continue to keep the polenta at a simmer for about 5 minutes. Once the polenta has thickened, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the grated cheese. Lightly salt and pepper to taste.




    Karista's Kitchen Salad Sassy Side dishes vegetarian

    Spicy Cabbage Salad



    cabbage salad with Sriracha dressing

    My favorite Spicy Cabbage Salad

    Over a thousand pictures, an enchanting week, the loveliest new friends and more wine and food than one could ever imagine.

    Tuscany.  The DaVinci Wine Storytellers Experience 2013.

    An event that has forever changed the heart of this Chef.  I have so much to tell you, to show you and new recipes to share with you.

    While I’m making my way through the memories and photos, here are just a few snapshots I wanted to share; and my favorite cabbage salad.

    My final post, including eight new enticing and delicious recipes, will be revealed on the DaVinci Wine Facebook page after the 1st of November.  Stay tuned!

    Ciao and Buon Appetito!


    (By choosing to click and read this blog post, you confirm you are of legal drinking age in the country where this site is accessed.  Thank you.)


    Vinci, Italy

    Vinci, Italy


    Streets of Montalcino, Italy

    A visit to the Medieval Tuscan town of Montalcino


    DaVinci Wine Storytellers

    Jenna, Leela (Storyteller) and Lisa. Our first Storytellers dinner


    DaVinci Wine Storytellers

    First evening with 2013 Storytellers Kristina Laurendi Havens and Karista Bennett


    Trattoria in Montalcino

    Trattoria in Montalcino.

    2013 DaVinci Wine Storytellers

    Storytellers Jim O’Donnell and Leela Cyd with Videographer Keston Migdal walking to a vineyard near Montalcino

    2013 DaVinci Wine Storytellers: Karista Bennett, Leela Cyd, Kristina Laurendi-Havens and Jim O’Donnell

    My Favorite Spicy Cabbage Salad

    This is one of those salads that can be tweaked to your tastes.  A little more of this a little less of that and it’s perfect.  I’ve given my basic recipe but feel free to prepare this salad how you wish.  I also love this cabbage salad as a slaw for tacos. I use this one for pork, chicken and grilled fish tacos.  Yum!  Delete cukes and replace with thin sliced apples for fish tacos.


    For the salad:

    1 head of Napa cabbage, halved and thinly sliced

    1 cucumber peeled and thinly sliced

    1 bunch of cilantro, coarsely chopped

    1 bunch of green onions, thinly sliced


    1/2 – 3/4 cup mayonnaise

    1-2 dashes Sriracha (or more to taste)(Sriracha is Asian hot sauce and can be found in most markets)

    1 teaspoon fine ground sugar or dash of agave syrup

    1/2 lime juiced (or more to taste depending how juicy the lime)

    salt and pepper to taste


    Whisk together the mayonnaise, sriracha, sugar and lime juice.  Toss the cabbage in a large bowl with salt and pepper.  Then toss the cabbage with the dressing and plate.  I like to put the salad on a platter and then layer with cucumbers, cilantro and green onions.  It makes a beautiful presentation.

    If making this for one or two, I place dressed cabbage in salad bowls or plates and layer with cucumbers, cilantro and green onion.  I have a friend who doesn’t like cilantro,  This salad is just as delish without the cilantro.  To substitute cilantro, toss in some sliced radishes or shredded carrots.